Mark A Ivener, A Law Corporation

H-1B Roundup: Cap Reached, Random Selection Completed; Some Applications ‘Wait-Listed’

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 8, 2008, that it had received enough H-1B petitions to meet the congressionally mandated cap for fiscal year (FY) 2009. USCIS announced a preliminary number of nearly 163,000 H-1B petitions received during the filing period ending on April 7, 2008. More than 31,200 of those petitions were for the advanced degree exemption. On April 14, USCIS conducted the computer-generated random selection process to select which H-1B petitions for FY 2009 will continue to full adjudication. If approved, those H-1B petitions will be eligible to receive an H-1B visa number.

USCIS conducted two random selections, first on petitions qualifying for the 20,000 “master’s or higher degree” (advanced degree) exemption, and second on the remaining advance degree petitions together with the general H-1B pool of petitions, for the 65,000 cap.

The approximately 163,000 petitions received on the first five days of the eligible filing period for FY 2009 (April 1 through April 7, 2008) were labeled with unique numerical identifiers. USCIS has notified the appropriate service centers which numerical identifiers have been randomly selected, so each center may continue processing the petitions associated with those identifiers.

Petitioners whose properly filed petitions have been selected for full adjudication should receive a receipt notice dated no later than June 2, 2008. USCIS will return unselected petitions with the fee(s) to petitioners or their authorized representatives. As previously announced, duplicate filings will be returned without the fee. The total adjudication process is expected to take approximately eight to 10 weeks.

For cases selected through the random selection process and initially filed for premium processing, the 15-day premium processing period began on April 14, the day of the random selection process.

USCIS has “wait-listed” some H-1B petitions, meaning they could replace petitions chosen to receive an FY 2009 cap number but that subsequently are denied, withdrawn, or otherwise found ineligible. USCIS will retain these petitions until a decision is made whether they will replace a previously selected petition. USCIS said it will send a letter to the wait-list petitioners to inform them of their status. USCIS expects that for each of these wait-listed petitions, it will either issue a receipt notice or return the petition with fees by early to mid-June.

USCIS also announced that, with several exceptions, it will not reject an H-1B petition subject to the fiscal year 2009 cap solely on the grounds that it was received at the wrong service center (e.g., the petition may have been inadvertently mailed to the California Service Center instead of the Vermont Service Center or vice versa). This does not apply if the petitions were sent to the Texas or Nebraska Service Centers.

USCIS said it was taking this “limited, short-term measure to alleviate concerns from the public where an H-1B petition has been received by USCIS but at the incorrect Service Center.” This measure applies only to H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2009 cap that were received by USCIS before the close of business on the final receipt date.

The announcement of the preliminary number of H-1B petitions received is available as a PDF. The announcement about USCIS’s policy regarding receipt at the wrong service center is here.

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Mark A. Ivener, A Law Corporation, a nationally recognized law firm, has successfully assisted hundreds of clients in immigration matters.